Within hours after I started teaching my second class on writing interactive fiction (IF) using Inform 7, it became clear to me what I needed to do. A girl asked, “How do I add a character to my story?” And as I looked through the Inform Recipe Book (one of the two manuals that ships with I7) I realized with a sinking feeling that there was nothing I could tell her to read that would give her step-by-step instructions suitable for a beginner.
To be fair, she had asked, in all innocence, perhaps the most difficult question she could have asked. But look: Stories are about people. The weakness of IF programming systems when it comes to creating realistic people is, I feel, coextensive with the weakness of IF itself as a creative medium. To paraphrase Duke Ellington (and rather badly, at that), it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got nobody.
So I started writing the Inform 7 Handbook. Fortunately, I’m a fast writer, and one of my special skills is explaining complex technical subjects to audiences who are not yet conversant with the basics. After only a week, I have a 1/3-finished draft that I can share with the class, and with anyone else who is standing timidly at the doorway peeking into the hallowed halls of I7. The Handbook is already 80 pages long. There are still huge holes that need to be filled — but yes, there’s quite a lot in there about creating characters.
You can download the incomplete draft, should you be so inclined, from www.musicwords.net/if/i7hb.htm. I plan to upload expanded versions about twice a week. Like Inform itself, the Handbook is free, but if you find it useful, a nice fan letter would make me feel all warm and fuzzy.